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January 15, 2009

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"Upon being satisfied, after an examination of information available to it, that the circumstances so warrant..."

Effectively, they don't have to do shit if they aren't satisfied that the circumstances so warrant them doing shit.


Hilzoy,

Let's assume Obama knows the law. Unlike Dubya, he has never tried to pass himself off as a cretin.

That means his hesitation to enforce the law will be 100% political: a calculation that he is less likely to win re-election if he prosecutes the people who have confessed (nay, proclaimed) their war crimes. The frightening thing is that this calculation may be correct.

A real leader doesn't just make the calculation and leave it at that, of course. He works to change the equation -- to turn the right thing into the popular thing. If Dubya could sell the country a pointless war, surely Obama can sell the country on prosecuting war crimes.

I like to think that maybe, over the consome at George Will's dinner party, Obama made the first, subtle, almost subliminal hint of a sales pitch. Nothing overt, mind you. Merely, perhaps, a fleeting reference to the Constitution, designed to flatter George Will and annoy Bill Kristol. It would not take much of a split between pundits who style themselves principled conservatives and pundits who are Bush-worshipping neocons, to start changing the conventional wisdom on war crimes prosecutions.

--TP

It's time for heroic pessimism:
Big O, you have no chance to be re-elected whatever you do, so do what is right!
As for tactics: institute one investigative body in the open that does not look too frightening and let another work behind the scenes with all stoppers pulled out and access to everything.
Try to get your domestic agenda passed while the opposition feels secure from real prosecution. Then spring the trap and crush them* (and the public) with a massive and waterproof indictment and trial.
In cases of pardons (including likely future ones): The Hague (the moderate choice actually, several states would love to send them to hell in a less than pleasant way).

*preferably not just Chain-Eye, Shrub and accomplices. Kissinger would also be nice. Bill Clinton (for rendition not for adultery) might be a wee bit troublesome given Hillary being in Obama's cabinet though, although he would be liable under the same statutes.

As to the United States "affirmative obligation to investigate," the operative clause is probably Reservation III(1) stating that the treaty is non self-executing. This is one of the stock reservations the U.S. appends to treaties (and some newer ones, including the ICC, come with a 'no reservations' clause), and it means that unless the treaty is re-passed as legislation, it is presumed to conform to U.S. law/has not actionable basis in U.S. law. This is not quite correct, but it's an important distinction (which can also be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_policy_of_the_United_States)

That means his hesitation to enforce the law will be 100% political: a calculation that he is less likely to win re-election if he prosecutes the people who have confessed (nay, proclaimed) their war crimes. The frightening thing is that this calculation may be correct.

Why do people always assume that when Democrats do the wrong thing it's out of crass political calculation?

An earlier example: In the face of surprisingly strong public support for impeachment of George W. Bush (well over forty percent without any attempt by Democratic leaders to encourage such support), Speaker Pelosi took impeachment off the table. Why assume that that this was "spineless" political calculation rather than an indication of Pelosi's own commitment to a version of the suite of policies pursued by this administration (a commitment that needs to be masked due to the beliefs of her own party's grassroots)?

I don't know what Obama will do regarding torture and the war crimes of the last eight years (though I'm not optimistic). But if we see no investigations and prosecutions, I'm not prepared to assume that he'd actually love to do the right thing, but is just afraid that he can't politically afford to do so.

Progressives have to discard the fantasy that center-right Democrats are actually weak-kneed progressives who only need more fervent grassroots support to act on their supposed values. They aren't.

FWIW, I don't share Hartmut's pessimism about Obama's reelection chances. Obama comes into office with a lot of public support. The condition of the economy and the world are very bad now and have a good chance to get at least somewhat better over the next four years. Powerful electoral trends that favored the Democrats this year may well continue to favor them in 2012, especially if the GOP doesn't change its profile. And despite Republican attempts to label everything that Obama does "socialist" (today's hot-button, blast-from-the-past epithet courtesy of Sen. Thune: "industrial policy"), Obama will govern very much from what Beltway insiders call the center of the political spectrum.

Obviously a whole lot can happen between now and 2012, but I don't see any reason to think that Obama's reelection chances are at this point any different than they are for most presidents...and those are pretty good odds.

Progressives have to discard the fantasy that center-right Democrats are actually weak-kneed progressives who only need more fervent grassroots support to act on their supposed values. They aren't.

Amen. Very well put.

Ben Alpers: , I don't share Hartmut's pessimism about Obama's reelection chances.

I don't see anything on Obama's program (though I may just be overlooking it) about electoral reform to ensure that all votes are counted/the candidate who gets the most votes wins, so I share Hartmut's pessimism. He got a landslide victory after 8 years of Republican misrule, a poor Republican candidate as alternative, and a rock-bottom worst-ever Vice President pick. Can he win by a landslide again in 2012? Or will Republicans be able to turn a 5% margin of victory for Obama into a 1% win for themselves?

Dishonest/broken elections do not go away just because Obama got to win...

"Why do people always assume that when Democrats do the wrong thing it's out of crass political calculation?"

Tony P. may have been saying that if Obama refuses to pursue possible criminal acts of torture -- and let's not forget warrantless wire-tapping -- the reason would be political. But I think he was also stating the reality of the situation.

Obama has already given lip service that "no one is above the law." But he's also said he thinks it is important to look forward, not backward.

I read that to mean he does not have the stomach for pursuing this stuff.

Sadly, hilzoy lists statute after statute that should be followed as such, not looked upon as simply ideals that should be followed, if it were politically expedient.

Obama is a curious mix of pragmatic politician and liberal idealist. He's going to do away with Don't Ask, Don't Tell, shut down Guantanamo. He wines and dines with the right-wing elite, weighs the wisdom of pursing crimes possibly committed by the Bush Administration.

Maybe he's smarter than everybody else, maybe he's just another politician.

The fact that so many pressing issues are on his plate already should indicate quickly who he is. Congress isn't rubber-stamping the outlay of the other $350 billion of the TARP money, as he asked. Timothy Geithner isn't going to make an easy Treasury Secretary appointment to get through the Senate, not when the man forgot to pay his taxes. Little wonder Obama might not have the stomach to go to war with the GOP over Bush.

P.S. Seeing how Obama hasn't even taken the Oath of Office, I have no desire to start making bets on if he could win a landslide again in 2012. My crystal ball says he might -- or might not. Why not let things play out for a year or so?

Also, for all of the handwringing about what to do with the detainees in Guantanamo, why not start by giving them their long overdue day in court?

Piggyback on RAG.

Prevailing interpretation of supremacy clause is that congress must write treaty into federal law. More on incorporation doctrine from wiki.

"The Supreme Court has also limited the direct effect of ratified treaties, notably in the case of Medellín v. Texas (2008). Hence, almost all treaties must be incorporated into U.S. federal law by Congress to have effect." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incorporation_(international_law)

i agree that obama should investigate and prosecute, but he is not legally required to do so.

For the record: I have precisely zero problem with Obama wining and dining with George Will et al. The reason is because while I wonder about a lot of things about Obama, I am absolutely confident that he is his own person, and therefore that the likelihood that as a result of such dinners, he will suddenly start saying things like "of course, every serious person knows that we have to do X", where X is the current analog of, say, 'invade Iraq', is near zero. Which person he is, and where his bearings are, are to me still open to question, but that he is his own person, and has bearings, is not.

That being the case, I think: look, reaching out to your opponents is just a good thing. For one thing, it might work. For another, if it doesn't, it matters that you are seen, accurately, to have gone the extra mile to reach out. People react to you differently, when a fight comes on, if they think you genuinely tried to avoid it than they do if they think you were spoiling for it.

This is a real benefit that's worth securing even if (possibly: especially if) you take the odds of your actually convincing your opponents to be approximately zero. I have always thought that Obama's outreach is like that: he makes genuine efforts to be civil, reach out, etc., but the calculus in no way depends on his imagining that he will convince people. It works out well either way. Plus, it's the decent thing to do.

Last night, 24 debuted the character of Sen. Blaine Mayer, a weak-kneed liberal critic of torture. So Jeffrey Goldberg called up namesake Jane Mayer to find out how she felt about being caricatured by America's leading apologia for torture:

Howard Gordon is the main creative force at "24" now. ...[he's] having trouble rationalizing the truth that his professional and economic successes are derived from mainlining political poison into America's bloodstream. If he was honest about the debate over torture, he'd cast the critics of Jack Bauer as the heroes of the show, and they would be the stand-up military men, the proud FBI agents, and the lawyers inside and outside the government who have risked their careers to say that as a country, we're better than this. They're the real protectors of America. I notice by the way that the ratings for the season opener tanked. The show lost a third of its audience. The zeitgeist has changed. At the moment, fear has migrated to the economic sphere. If they move quickly, maybe they can start waterboarding Hank Paulson.

And that, my friends, is why it doesn't pay to pick fights with people who are smarter and more articulate.

Hilzoy,

Don't you want to wait until AFTER non on Jan. 20 2009 to make this point? We have still 5 more days (121 hours as I write this) for blanket pardons. Not that admin lawyers can't figure the danger they are in on their own . . . but why let them know of rumblings of support for the REQUIREMENT that the Obama/Holder(?) justice regime investigate and prosecute?

The one question Bush would not answer at his "exit interview" was the question of pardons, and especially blanket pardons for past administration actions. I suspect they are (frantically?) trying to decide what to do on these while they still have legal power. Don't push them over the edge!

The people reelected the Bush regime AFTER abu ghraib came to light.

Get over it. The people have spoken.

The people reelected the Bush regime AFTER abu ghraib came to light.

Get over it. The people have spoken.

Yeah, but that might have had something to do with the fact that the Bush administration was lying about its complicity in the Abu Ghraib scandal.

Bush claimed that it was shameful, an aberration and that the perpetrators would be punished. Conservative pundits and staunch Bush supporters from Jonah Goldberg to Andy McCarthy were calling for prosecutions of the perps.

Now we have knowledge that, contrary to those claims, the Bush administration was actually authorizing the very techniques used at Abu Ghraib, and had sent military leader to Abu Ghraib to oversee the implementation of those tactics. The Abu Ghraib photos revealed techniques widely in use in Iraq, Afghanistan, Gitmo and elsewhere.

I'd say that sort of reopens the people's conversation.

"Get over it. The people have spoken."

Was that a line from "24" or did you come up with that yourself?

And that, my friends, is why it doesn't pay to pick fights with people who are smarter and more articulate.

It should be noted that Mayer wrote a critical investigative piece for the New Yorker on the politics of 24 and its creative team (including lead writer Howard Gordon).

Perhaps we could have a short moratorium on calls for war crimes trials. Just for a week. Then, once we know who got preemptively pardoned and who did not, we can think about who might be left to investigate and possibly prosecute. Right now, we cannot be sure what the available options will be.

d'd'd': Granting what you say about the people, for the sake of argument, what does that have to do with Obama's obligations under the law?

hilzoy: I agree with you that it was smart of Obama to dine with George Will, Bill Kristol, et al. I think it can only help him in the future and create a genuine dialogue with the right. And, yes, I agree he is his own man.

I was trying to make the larger point that on some issues he may ultimately take a pass -- on pursuing prosecutions of the Bush Administration, for example -- out of his political pragmatism.

---

donald johnson: "Was that a line from '24' or did you come up with that yourself?"

lol.

Observer: I agree with what I read by a Time critic last night, that Bauer and "24" have grown stale. This season was hyped as being relevant again -- but neither Jack or the show have any inclination to change. I saw the two-hour debut Sunday, and only caught the last 15 minutes Monday because I worked late, but don't feel I missed much. Same thing happened last year: Stopped watching after a few eps.

"Sadly, hilzoy lists statute after statute"

Actually, treaty provisions aren't statutes. As RAG points out, this is, in fact, important.

"Also, for all of the handwringing about what to do with the detainees in Guantanamo, why not start by giving them their long overdue day in court?"

Lots of them will never go to court (other than to simply be released, which it isn't necessary to go to court to do) because either: a) there's no admissible evidence; b) evidence is tainted by torture; c) they wouldn't want to disclose "methods and sources" in giving the evidence.

"Then, once we know who got preemptively pardoned and who did not, we can think about who might be left to investigate and possibly prosecute."

Pardons are domestic; if they occur, they not just leave open the case for foreign or international courts to establish jurisdiction, but they strengthen the case, since domestic jurisdiction will have been surrendered.

What the heck? I posted the comment, and then it disappeared when I went back to the thread, and then I reintered it, and hit "preview," and it posted?

Gary, there's caching (possibly at multiple levels) that sometimes prevents a comment from showing up immediately. Usually if I'm on the page and do a shift-reload the new comment appears.

// Was that a line from '24' or did you come up with that yourself?//

I've never watched '24' so I guess I didn't get it there.

//d'd'd': Granting what you say about the people, for the sake of argument, what does that have to do with Obama's obligations under the law?//

The law is the law so I guess it must be followed. Or tested to the supreme court at least. Or changed.

There are speed laws. On the whole, I'm glad for speed laws. But sometimes I speed. Sometimes I even get caught when I speed and have to pay a fine. Yet still I'm glad for speed laws.

It is okay with me that there have been renditions, guantanamo prison, a few cases of torture, and a few innocents detained illegally. It's a frigging war. All kinds of bad things happen in war - including the actual deaths of innocent people. Some deaths of innocent people in war are long, drawn out painful events akin to torture. War in general does this. I do not like war. Yet, sometimes it happens.

War came to get us at 9/11. I am content with the overall approach taken by the bush regime since that time. In my opinion it has been successful. Let the law run its course if you want. But in the end, I will pardon the bush regime because I believe that on the whole it did a good job in its response to the 9/11 events.

My opinion is not popular here, I'm sure. But I am sticking with it.

It is okay with me that there have been renditions, guantanamo prison, a few cases of torture, and a few innocents detained illegally.*

A few? There have been over 150 deaths in US custody. Hundreds more have been tortured - but short of death.

How is that a few? And no, that's not your "opinion" that is a question of fact.

The same mistatement applies to the number of innocents detained without trial or habeas corpus rights. Thousands, not a few.

It's a frigging war. All kinds of bad things happen in war - including the actual deaths of innocent people...War came to get us at 9/11

Because al-Qaeda attackes us on 9/11, it's OK that we tortured Iraqi citizens in Iraq even though those Iraqis, and the Iraq war itself, had nothing to do with either 9/11 or al-Qaeda?

Which says nothing of your characterization of al-Qaeda's attack as "war." It was not.

(*PS: I thought you were a libertarian. Was I confused?)

d'd'd'dave said: It's a frigging war.

* * *

Touché...

It is okay with me that there have been renditions, guantanamo prison, a few cases of torture, and a few innocents detained illegally. It's a frigging war. All kinds of bad things happen in war - including the actual deaths of innocent people.

Call it idle curiosity, but are you arguing that:

(a) All of these things are tragic and should not have happened, but mistakes are inevitable in wartime. Those who made them acted with good intentions, and should be forgiven. And then, let's move forward by improving procedures and ensuring things like this don't recur

-or-

(b) It's perfectly justifiable to seize, render, torture, detain, or kill without disclosure of evidence or due process someone who supports terrorism - we're at war. And if we have to do that to ten innocents for every actual terrorist, that's just the price we'll have to pay to keep our homeland safe.

Gary: By saying give the detainees "their long-overdue day in court," I thought implicit in that would be "or give them their release." My fault for not making it clear.

The fact that Nancy Pelosi and company had absolutely no appetite to go after war crimes speaks volumes. Professional politicians are (usually) pretty astute about what the public will and won't go for. The fact that beyond Conyers there was no interest in pursuing this, tells me that the conventional wisdom, is that it would be very politically dangerous to do so.

Now, I am of the opinion that Obama has a lot of things he would like to accomplish. But, he is very realistic/practical. He has studied the mistakes of past presidents, in an effort to avoid similar blunders. I'm sure he has his own vision of what order to fight the various battle for progressive policies. He knows that if he chooses poorly, and loses a critical battle early on, that his ability to deliver on the other items will be greatly reduced. So he is choosing those battles, that are both important, and winnable at reasonable cost, in order to build the kind of momentum to tackle the more thorny issues. Of course there is no guarantee, that the conditions will ever be ripe for some of these items. The sad truth, is that the bulk of the people are not sold on the severity of the war crimes.

//Because al-Qaeda attackes us on 9/11, it's OK that we tortured Iraqi citizens in Iraq even though those Iraqis, and the Iraq war itself, had nothing to do with either 9/11 or al-Qaeda?//

Yes. But I don't split hairs as finely as you do. I accepted then and I accept now that there are state sponsors of terror who, though not al qaeda and not involved in 9/11, are causing the proliferation of terror. Iran fits that description now with their proxies in Lebanon and Palestine.

//Which says nothing of your characterization of al-Qaeda's attack as "war." It was not.//

What was it then? A simple crime? I'm not a lawyer. I'm not using 'war' as a term of art. Call it what you want. But military was, in my view, the correct response.

(*PS: I thought you were a libertarian. Was I confused?)

Perhaps you'll have to point out from a textbook where I don't meet the definition.

I have said before that my choice is for the US tp focus on its own affairs within it's own borders. I think it should pull back its military to its own shores and let everyone else handle their own affairs. But I can't have what I want. So, I look at what is. And that is where my recommendation comes from.

Perhaps you'll have to point out from a textbook where I don't meet the definition.

I always thought libertarians would oppose the imprisonment of American citizens detained on US soil indefinitely and without trial - and the subjection of such individuals to state-sanctioned torture.

For some reason, I thought libertarians, by definition, valued civil liberties and the bill of rights, and were extremely wary about the overreach of executive and police power.

Yes. But I don't split hairs as finely as you do. I accepted then and I accept now that there are state sponsors of terror who, though not al qaeda and not involved in 9/11, are causing the proliferation of terror. Iran fits that description now with their proxies in Lebanon and Palestine.

So Palestinian groups that use terrorism as a tactic in their conflict with the Israeli state should be treated as no different from al-Qaeda?

Thus, Saddam's support of Palestinian groups justified us torturing Iraqi and, in some instances, murdering Iraqi detainees because al-Qaeda attacked us on 9/11?

And, beware citizens of Iran: 9/11 also justified our torture of you because your state supports Palestinian groups.

Again: That's the libertarian take?

I accepted then and I accept now that there are state sponsors of terror who, though not al qaeda and not involved in 9/11, are causing the proliferation of terror.

Onward to Tel Aviv then!

What was it then? A simple crime? I'm not a lawyer. I'm not using 'war' as a term of art. Call it what you want. But military was, in my view, the correct response.

There are a number of reasons why calling it a war is incorrect, and why the use of the military should be narrow and targeted.

For example, some use in Afghanistan was warranted. The invasion of Iraq was not only unwarranted, but severely counterproductive.

Even Don Rumsfeld tried to get us to stop calling it a war ("GSAVE" was his attempt at a reframing). More recently, the RAND corporation put out a report urging the demilitarization of the response to terrorism.

According to RAND, the most effective means of combatting the terrorist threat is through law enforcement. By invoking war, the Bush administration has flouted the law and made effective law enforcement tactics useless.

Dave, is it your libertarian opinion that we should be invading Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Pakistan, and any other country that is "causing the proliferation of terror" by the same definition used for Iraq, because they're all somehow helping Al Qaeda, with whom we're "at war"? It seems like a strange way to focus on our own affairs within our own borders.

Obama has already given lip service that "no one is above the law." But he's also said he thinks it is important to look forward, not backward.

I read that to mean he does not have the stomach for pursuing this stuff.

Yes, but couldn't you just as easily read this to mean that Barack Obama believes that it's important for some Americans to be above the law, but it's politically necessary to pay lip service to the fact that nobody is above the law? Why do Obama's statements reflect his deepest beliefs and his actions political pragmatism, rather than the other way around?

After all, what was new with the Bush administration was not so much the use of torture by the U.S. and its surrogates (which has long occurred), but the relative openness, extent, and even celebration of the use of torture by the U.S. and its surrogates.

//For some reason, I thought libertarians, by definition, valued civil liberties and the bill of rights, and were extremely wary about the overreach of executive and police power.//

It seems to me you are conflating a few things here. First, I think one of the very few areas where executive power is useful is in foreign affairs and defense. I don't like the size and reach of the executive in domestic affairs. Second, the torture allegations about which we've been talking have generally been for things done to foreigners who, in my view, are not privy to the same civil rights as citizens.

//So Palestinian groups that use terrorism as a tactic in their conflict with the Israeli state should be treated as no different from al-Qaeda?// This is your conclusion not mine. I was pointing at Iran as an aggressor who is spreading terror via hamas and hezbollah. If you're asking whether someone should shoot back at Palestinian terrorists the answer is yes.

Again, let me emphasize that my initial preference is to withdraw entirely in a gradual way so that the end state is the US living privately and peaceably and causing no harm. But I am not king.

//Thus, Saddam's support of Palestinian groups justified us torturing Iraqi and, in some instances, murdering Iraqi detainees because al-Qaeda attacked us on 9/11?// Again, this is your conclusion. I did not take the first step with you.

//And, beware citizens of Iran: 9/11 also justified our torture of you because your state supports Palestinian groups.// You're traveling far afield by this point.

//Again: That's Eric Martin's distortion of d'd'd'dave's (who holds some libertarian views) take?//

Triple d, this is a gem: "It is okay with me that there have been . . . a few innocents detained illegally. It's a frigging war."

So you stipulating that innocents have been detained.

And illegally.

And it's OK?

I don't get it.

Observer | January 15, 2009 at 03:05 PM

I'm more for a. But, if King, I might've tried a rendition and secret incarceration of Zarqawi or some such guy. I kind of think that laws exist to minimize bad behavior. I don't expect that they'll stamp it out entirely. Which means laws have limits to their effectiveness. I accept that my side might occasionally cross the border in hot pursuit. I just don't want it to be a feature.

Second, the torture allegations about which we've been talking have generally been for things done to foreigners who, in my view, are not privy to the same civil rights as citizens.

Generally, yes. Exclusively, no. American citizens (Padilla for example, but not him alone) have been imprisoned indefinitely without charges and tortured. What is your take on that?

Again: That's Eric Martin's distortion of d'd'd'dave's (who holds some libertarian views) take

As for my distortion, let's recap:

Dave said:

It is okay with me that there have been renditions, guantanamo prison, a few cases of torture, and a few innocents detained illegally...It's a frigging war. All kinds of bad things happen in war - including the actual deaths of innocent people...War came to get us at 9/11

Eric replied:

Because al-Qaeda attackes us on 9/11, it's OK that we tortured Iraqi citizens in Iraq even though those Iraqis, and the Iraq war itself, had nothing to do with either 9/11 or al-Qaeda?

In other words, it's misleading for you to justify torture based on 9/11, since we have also tortured thousands of Iraqis and Iraq had nothing to do with al-Qaeda or the "war" that got us on 9/11.

To which Dave replied:

Yes. But I don't split hairs as finely as you do. I accepted then and I accept now that there are state sponsors of terror who, though not al qaeda and not involved in 9/11, are causing the proliferation of terror. Iran fits that description now with their proxies in Lebanon and Palestine.

To which I replied:

Thus, Saddam's support of Palestinian groups justified us torturing Iraqi and, in some instances, murdering Iraqi detainees because al-Qaeda attacked us on 9/11?

So how should I interpret your words without distorting your views?

What is your position on the torture of Iraqis?

Why or why not is the torture of Iraqis justified by 9/11 and what al-Qaeda did? Does Saddam's support of Palestinian groups that engage in terrorism change this?

What is your position on the torture and suspension of habeas corpus for US citizens?

For non-citizens if such acts are against US law as it relates to non-citizens?

//The invasion of Iraq was not only unwarranted, but severely counterproductive.//

Yes dear. Whatever you say dear.

Counterproductive - yes, in the short term. I'm not so sure in the long term.
Unwarranted - slightly more no than yes.


//According to RAND, the most effective means of combatting the terrorist threat is through law enforcement. By invoking war, the Bush administration has flouted the law and made effective law enforcement tactics useless.//

Yes dear. If RAND says it, it must be so.

I'm surprised that a libertarian makes such a distinction between citizens and noncitizens, since the libertarians I'm most familiar with view civil liberties as generally being more significant than states' authority.

Yes dear. If RAND says it, it must be so.

But honeypie, it wasn't just RAND. The Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point said the same thing. As do almost all counterterrorism experts, sugar.

Can you actually cite any that say war is the optimal response?

I'm all ears darling.

d'd'd'dave: Counterproductive - yes, in the short term. I'm not so sure in the long termt

What productive result do you see coming out of killing over a million Iraqis, destroying Iraq as a functioning country, and long-term creating a new Iran-friendly Islamic state in the Middle East, as well as driving Iran down the road towards going nuclear, as the possession of nuclear weapons protects a country against aggressive US attack? Please. Do explain.

Unwarranted - slightly more no than yes.

Attacking a country that had not only not attacked the US, that had no ability to attack the US, and was known to have no ability to attack the US? How much more unwarranted can you get?

bedtimeforbonzo | January 15, 2009 at 04:02 PM

//And it's OK? I don't get it.//

It is not desireable. It is not the goal. Sometimes you reach for something and come up with something else. Oops.

Should you refrain from all activity because by acting you might make a mistake? I think not. It is a luxury afforded only to academics.

Again, let me emphasize that my initial preference is to withdraw entirely in a gradual way so that the end state is the US living privately and peaceably and causing no harm. But I am not king.

//American citizens (Padilla for example, but not him alone) have been imprisoned indefinitely without charges and tortured. What is your take on that?//

They should get the full palate of citizens rights which, I suppose, includes a $ payoff for violation of civil rights.

For some reason, I thought libertarians, by definition, valued civil liberties and the bill of rights, and were extremely wary about the overreach of executive and police power.

Welcome to the Internet.

They should get the full palate of citizens rights which, I suppose, includes a $ payoff for violation of civil rights.

Hey, we agree on that! That's a start.

But I'd note, for the record, that you answered the softball out of the lot, and still haven't cleared up your curious position re: 9/11 and how it relates to Iraq and Iraq's citizens.

They should get the full palate of citizens rights which, I suppose, includes a $ payoff for violation of civil rights.

All the money in the world is not going to make Padilla whole. The man is profoundly damaged, probably irreparably. He was subjected to a systematic program of isolation that was quite specifically designed to break his personality and sense of self into crumbs, and it worked perfectly.

You think the invasion of Iraq was warranted, and that the use of torture over the last eight years is justifiable.

I don't.

Either you don't have the slightest idea how profoundly wrong our conduct has been for the last eight years, or you don't give a crap.

People have hung for doing the things that we have done, as a matter of policy, endorsed at the very highest levels of the executive.

People who had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11 or anything like it have been brutally beaten to death while in US custody. They've had dogs set on them, been stripped naked and chained to the floor in frigidly cold rooms, had bright lights and horrifically loud and abrasive noises blasted at them at all hours, been deprived of sleep for days, and been forced to stand in painful positions for hours or days on end.

It's true that, in every war, innocent people die. What was novel in the Bush years was the deliberate and systematic brutalization of people, whether innocent or not, who were held hors de combat.

This shit did not happen on the battlefield, in the heat of combat. It happened in prisons, to people who posed no threat to anyone whatsoever, and to quite a number of people who not only had no involvement with any kind of terrorism, but who were known at the time they were being brutalized that they had no involvement with any kind of terrorism.

That, my friend, is some seriously f*cked up shit. It's a crime in this country, and not just due to treaties, and it's a crime around the world.

It's wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, and if you don't give a crap about it, you are wrong, too.

We may or may not prosecute anyone for any of this stuff. If we don't, there are a lot of folks who will not be taking vacations overseas for the rest of their lives, because they'll be arrested as soon as they get off the plane.

I never served in the armed forces, but my father, step-father, father-in-law, and uncles did, and if any of them were alive to see this, they would puke.

The people spoke in 2004, alright, and they owe me an apology, because they gave us four more years of the worst, absolutely sorry-assed worst, administration this nation has ever seen, and that is saying something. Bush sucks. He sucked in the first term, and he sucks to this day, and every person that voted for him should be embarrassed.

If the best comment you have to make about all of this is "get over it", I'll thank you to save your breath. I won't get over it, there is no reason on God's green earth that I ought to get over it, and I resent your asking me to do so.

Thanks -

//your curious position re: 9/11 and how it relates to Iraq and Iraq's citizens.//

My overall position on rendition, incarceration, and torture is probably best summed up in my exchange with Observer:

"All of these things are tragic and should not have happened, but mistakes are inevitable in wartime. Those who made them acted with good intentions, and should be forgiven. And then, let's move forward by improving procedures and ensuring things like this don't recur'. But, if King, I might've tried a rendition and secret incarceration of Zarqawi or some such guy. I kind of think that laws exist to minimize bad behavior. I don't expect that they'll stamp it out entirely. Which means laws have limits to their effectiveness. I accept that my side might occasionally cross the border in hot pursuit. I just don't want it to be a feature."

I see a difference between the Guantanamo events and the Iraq events. I see the Guantanamo detainees as bad characters snatched from places that were not an active hot battlefield. I think of them more like terrorists who prey on innocents than soldiers in a war. Whereas, the iraqis I see more as soldiers fighting for a corrupt regime. To me, the iraqis are not so much to blame as their regime, the state sponsor, is. Perhaps it is illogical, but I find it easier to forgive the torture in regard to Gitmo than in regard to Iraq.

Whereas, the iraqis I see more as soldiers fighting for a corrupt regime

Most Iraqis detained were not soldiers, or insurgents, but were innocent of all crimes.

At least, that was the Army's conclusion. But then, they don't really have a reason to lie about such matters in such a way.

I see a difference between the Guantanamo events and the Iraq events. I see the Guantanamo detainees as bad characters snatched from places that were not an active hot battlefield.

Most Gitmo detainees are/were innocent as well.

I'm not as magnanimous as you with respect to the war criminals. I'm with Russell.

But thanks for the clarification.

What russell @5:58 pm said.

d'd'd'dave, the problem as I see it with the sort of eggs-n-omlettes argument that you are making is, having mounted that particular slippery slope, where do you stop and how?

In the broad spectrum which lies between what we've done in the course of pursuing the GWOT + OIF and say the Nanjing massacre of 1937, where do you draw the line between acceptable mistakes and unacceptable atrocities? What are your criteria for making that judgement, and how do you achieve some sort of robust public consensus on it, a consensus which is mandatory if it is actually to be enforced?

It seems to me that the whole business of drawing lines which we choose not to cross is one that has to be done with great care and allowing for the problem that the more complex we make the moral calculus the more likely it is that somebody on our side is going to step over the line anyway because the consensus as to what is verboten is not strong enough.

For that reason bright lines which are simple and easy to understand, and positioned some distance back from what we think is truly unacceptable are the best way to guide and constrain our actions, without getting into exactly the sort of pickle we are in now over the issue of criminal prosecutions for former Bush admin. officials. But using the excuse that it's war and stuff happens doesn't help, it makes matters worse not better, and goes against the grain of at least a portion of our own martial tradition (George Washington and the captured Hessians, the Nuremburg trials, etc.) which have served us well over the years and should not be cast aside lightly.

Two things:

First, I get a sense that some people are acting like Dennis Kucinich got elected (how many Delegates did he get?) and are supprised that Obama isn't Kucinch.

Secondly, Obama knows (heck, if I had a dog, he'd know) that he needs to soft-pedal prosecution until after the 20th. I wish that everyone would untwist their knickers and just hold off until we know what President Obama does.

Yeeesh.

Second, the torture allegations about which we've been talking have generally been for things done to foreigners who, in my view, are not privy to the same civil rights as citizens.

You may want to familiarize yourself with how much of the US Constitution, and how many of our laws, refer to and protect "persons" rather than "citizens." Just for, you know, your own edification.

War in general does this. I do not like war. Yet, sometimes it happens.

No, it does not just happen. People make a decision to conduct it.

//War in general does this. I do not like war. Yet, sometimes it happens.

No, it does not just happen. People make a decision to conduct it.//

Really? This particular war - did you make a decision to conduct it? Or did it just land in your lap?

Really? This particular war - did you make a decision to conduct it? Or did it just land in your lap?

Funny, I didn't realize Phil had responsibility for such momentous decisions. Phil, you've got a lot to answer for.

d'd'd'dave, what Phil said was "People make a decision to conduct [war]" not "I made a decision to conduct [war]". Do you have trouble understanding the difference between "People" and "I"? Google functions as a sort of instant dictionary, you know: you can look words up if you don't know their exact meaning.

It appears that my comment to russell disappeared into space.

"You may want to familiarize yourself with how much of the US Constitution, and how many of our laws, refer to and protect 'persons' rather than 'citizens.'"

Good point, Phil. Our Constitution is profound in backing human rights, not rights of U.S. citicizens exclusively. America, on the whole, could be looked at as a model of such backing, until George Bush and his crowd took a different tact.

d'd'd'dave: Wasn't one of the great things about this country was the value it placed on human rights and due process?

Jesurgislac

No, I do not have difficulty with the language. Do you?

People decide? Who are these people? Is Phil one? Am I one?

Neither one of us is. This war fell in our (Phils and my) laps. So for us, sometimes war happens. My usage, in the context, was correct. Phil's comment, though true in another context, was false in this one because it was seemingly an attempt to correct me. The fact that he quoted me enforces this impression.

People decide? Who are these people?

Oh. I didn't realise you'd been that isolated. You know, there's a man who has been the lawful commander of your country's armed forces for the past 8 years. His name is "George W. Bush", and if you'd really never heard of him, I do suggest you Google on him and do some reading. Also involved were people named Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz, and George Tenet. You might want to google them as well, though I'm really surprised anyone with access to the Internet could be so completely ignorant of all them as you assert you are.

Jesugislac
Excuse me?
Keeping in mind the context - in what way is your comment useful?
Or are you just choosing to incite a war with me?

Really? This particular war - did you make a decision to conduct it? Or did it just land in your lap?

dis⋅in⋅gen⋅u⋅ous   [dis-in-jen-yoo-uhs]
–adjective
lacking in frankness, candor, or sincerity; falsely or hypocritically ingenuous; insincere: Her excuse was rather disingenuous.

Neither one of us is. This war fell in our (Phils and my) laps.

Like hell it did. You and I both are about as far from this war as it is possible to be. You, I'm willing to bet, have suffered exactly nothing from this war. I'll even go so far as to bet that you don't personally know anyone who is serving or has served in it.


Or are you just choosing to incite a war with me?

How could I possibly "incite a war", d'd'd'dave? Aren't you the one who argues that "war happens", like a natural disaster? Attacks just happen. Like a kind of natural disaster. No individual can be said to be to blame. Right?

Or, so you argued when you claimed "war happens" - and denied Phil's point that people decide to wage war, with "People decide? Who are these people?" like you didn't know. Really? You didn't know who decided to wage aggressive war on Iraq?

Phil, I wouldn't go so far as you.

But let us focus on dave's statement about mistakes happen. Sure they do in wartime. Innocent people do die. Call it collateral damage if you want. In those cases the innocent people are not the main targets of the action that is taking place. So that can qualif as a mistake.

Sometimes a mistake is made on where you are targeting your weapons. Yeah, that is a mistake.

However, to make tio conscious decision to go against the Constitution, international and US standards of conduct toward prisoners, to engage in activities that any sane person knows are illegal and non-productive is not a mistake.

To invade a country that was not and never would be a threat to this country and that was not a state sponsor of terrorism any more, and probably less, than countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and others, is not a mistake.

To reduce thesafety of this country while at the same time acting in a manner that actually gave aid and comfort to our enemies is not a mistake.

This adminstration did all of those things. The first two are crimes, the last is defined by some as treason.

And to russell, if I was one of the powers that be at ObWi, I would seriously consider giving you posting privileges.

Thank you.

Death of a million people? War just happens. Deal with it.

On the receiving end of an offhand comment on the interwebs? Medic!

I accepted then and I accept now that there are state sponsors of terror who, though not al qaeda and not involved in 9/11, are causing the proliferation of terror. Iran fits that description now with their proxies in Lebanon and Palestine.

What you're talking about here are legitimate reasons for attacking another country.

Here's a little story, to put some context on it.

In October of 1962, we discovered that nuclear missile sites were being constructed in Cuba.

In discussions of how to respond, both surgical air strikes and a full-on invasion of Cuba were considered. During these discussions, Robert Kennedy apparently made the somewhat sarcastic comment, "I now know how Tojo felt when he was planning Pearl Harbor".

The point here is that, in the face of explicit and concrete evidence that a near neighbor was planning not a nuclear development program, but the actual deployment of nuclear missiles, positioned so as to be minutes away from major US population centers, the then-AG of the US saw an invasion as being akin to Tojo's invasion of the US at Pearl Harbor.

In other words, illegal. A crime.

They pursued, at no small risk, a diplomatic resolution.

There's more to the picture -- invading Cuba also risked the advent of WWIII. But there was no assumption that an invasion of another country was automatically justified, even in the face of an explicit nuclear threat.

On the contrary, there was a belief that invading another country, even a puny little two-bit country like Cuba, was a serious matter, not to be taken lightly, and that, for lack of a better phrase, a decent respect for the opinion of mankind should give them pause.

Likewise, in the case of torture, Washington renounced torture in the face of the overwhelming existential threat of the Revolution, Lincoln likewise in the face of widespread insurrection.

In comparison to these guys, guys like Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al are cowards and punks. They are not statesmen, but weaklings and children. My two cents.

Bad things don't "happen" in wars. People do them. Normally, people who do them, do them in the context of dire necessity.

When they don't do so out of necessity, it's quite often considered a war crime. People hang for war crimes. We have hung people for war crimes, including some of which we now stand guilty.

When you hold someone in prison, unarmed, with no means of harming you, "dire necessity" is not a factor. That is what is meant by "hors de combat", and that is why all of the bad things you can do to your enemy during war are not permissible to folks you hold hors de combat.

War is no excuse for torture.

Phil
//Like hell it did. You and I both are about as far from this war as it is possible to be. You, I'm willing to bet, have suffered exactly nothing from this war. I'll even go so far as to bet that you don't personally know anyone who is serving or has served in it.//

Okay. It's not your war. You have nothing to do with it. Why the hell are you poking your nose in then?

"Professional politicians are (usually) pretty astute about what the public will and won't go for."

In my world, most professional politicians are pretty conservative (small "c"), cautious, and often downright cowardly in their thinking about what the public will and won't go for after it's explained to them.

"Second, the torture allegations about which we've been talking have generally been for things done to foreigners who, in my view, are not privy to the same civil rights as citizens."

It's okay to torture foreigners? Does this apply in reverse, as well, and if not, why not?

[...] It is not desireable. It is not the goal. Sometimes you reach for something and come up with something else. Oops.

Should you refrain from all activity because by acting you might make a mistake? I think not. It is a luxury afforded only to academics.

Invading Iraq. Refraining from all activity.

I see a teeny-weeny, itsy-bitsy, excluded middle there.

"I see the Guantanamo detainees as bad characters snatched from places that were not an active hot battlefield."

But lots of them weren't. Lots of them were simply innocent people sold by Afghans and Pakistanis to naive American forces purely for monetary gain. That's why, you know, we've let so many of them go. You really might want to read up on the facts. One place to start would be with the Uighurs. Another case. Or try actual libertarian Radley Balko. How about 82 Inmates Cleared but Still Held at Guantanamo? No offense, but it seems rather clear you know relatively little about Guantanamo and who has been held there and how it came about. I suggest reading up.

"George Washington and the captured Hessians,"

One of George's opinions.

Two years ago here. Discussions tend to come round again.

FWIW, I think people tend to miss the central problem with the whole "whatever it takes" and "ticking time bomb" ethic. To whatever extent we have an enemy that we have not ourselves created, funded, cultivated and encouraged, we face people who do not like the way we live and think. They want us to give up our notions of the role of faith, government, and the individual, because they want us to adopt our own.

So, if they can use fear to force us to give up some of our most basic political beliefs, in freedom and limited government under law, they've pretty much achieved their aims. And torture means giving up our belief in limited government, because a limited government does not torture. Once a government gives its agents the green light to torture any citizen, or even any foreigner, at will, then the restraints on it have, for all intents and purposes, ceased to exist.

So if "doing whatever it takes" means giving up one of the most precious parts of our enlightenment heritage, how much more of step would just doing what they want involve? What if a terrorist could locate the ticking bomb, and merely required that Jack Bauer and his team walk into a mosque and utter the fourteen words that would make them Muslims?

In other words, what will people who will will torture to save their skins not do? And once you have given up your democratic heritage so far as to torture possibly innocent people, what moral arguments do you have to resist anything?

Okay. It's not your war. You have nothing to do with it. Why the hell are you poking your nose in then?

1. See, I actually do know people who are serving - friends, and children of friends. What's more, as the son of a career military man, the misuse of our military makes me quite angry.

2. You are clearly bound and determined to be a disingenuous choad, so goodbye.

d'd'd'dave: Okay. It's not your war. You have nothing to do with it. Why the hell are you poking your nose in then?

Not Phil, but: why the hell not? Are you in the habit of seeing horrific injustice and terrible atrocities committed and not protesting? Why do you have this habit? What taught you to be so passive and compliant, not even daring to make written protest against evil behind the safety of pseudonym on a blog?

These are rhetorical questions, you needn't answer them. I'm not really that personally interested in you.

RAG and unfrozen caveman have both mentioned the "not self-executing" reservation accompanying U.S. ratification of the Convention Against Torture and implied that it somehow means that the provisions of the treaty are not in force.

This isn't so; the treaty has been in force in the U.S. since November 20, 1994, with the force of federal law. The 'not self-executing' reservation means only that private parties can't invoke the provisions of the convention in litigation in the absence of implementing legislation. Instead, private parties would use one or more of the many applicable statutes that already criminalize abusive treatment (assault or battery, murder or manslaughter, kidnapping or abduction, false arrest or imprisonment, sexual abuse, violation of civil rights).

However, prosecution of Bush administration officials who set a policy of torture by either the Department of Justice or by a special prosecutor would not be an example of injured private parties bringing suit, so there is no bar to the direct invocation of the provisions of the Convention Against Torture in such cases. There is substantial evidence that the CAT's provisions were violated by Addington, Yoo, Rumsfeld, Cambone, Feith, Cheney, Gonzales, Rice, Cheney, and Bush. To name a few.

As it happens, though, some implementing legislation has been passed and signed into law. A statute passed in 1994 at the time of ratification (18 U.S.C. § 2340 et seq.) gives federal criminal jurisdiction over extraterritorial acts of torture by U.S. nationals or persons present in the U.S. The War Crimes Act of 1996 does the same for U.S. nationals, civilian or military, who commit a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions. (This is the statute then-Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora read aloud at a meeting at the Pentagon in 2002.)

So to d'd'd'dave, rule of law and human rights are not principles, but weak preferences to be abandoned for any transitory or even illusory gain with which they seem to interfere, or just to make us feel better.

I won't get over it, there is no reason on God's green earth that I ought to get over it, and I resent your asking me to do so.

Yup.

(Great web site too, hadn't been there before.)

You are right. I am wrong. Torture is wrong and worthless (worth less than zero actually). The president and his people were wrong to authorize torture. There should be a trial.

I sincerely denounce myself to the cadres.

I sincerely denounce myself to the cadres.

Look what I found: a very tiny violin.

Please play it for me.

My peasant fingers are thick and clumsy from toiling in the fields for the party. Nay, I do not deserve the joy of music. I yearn instead to pour out the blood of the bushistas in the fields to grow a crop of peace.

Or something like that.

yeah dave, everybody's piling on you and you're having a bad day.

cheer up, it could be worse. it could be your blood poured out to grow a crop of peace.

It's too small and high-pitched to hear. Only the running dogs can hear it.

Kidnapping, torture, and murder: "All of these things are tragic and should not have happened, but mistakes are inevitable in wartime. Those who made them acted with good intentions, and should be forgiven. And then, let's move forward by improving procedures and ensuring things like this don't recur."

People on the Internet are not being as nice to d'd'd'dave for the above piece of wisdom as he thinks they should be: "Emergency! Call a WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAmbulance!"

Comrades. It is a sincere denouncement. I am worse than a Trotskyite. Worse than a spy for Chiang. Worse than an AB. I am determined to join a reeducation camp at the lowest level.

Yeah, we're all a bunch of pinko Maoists, dave. That's a brilliant response. Dazzle us some more, won't you?

Well, the first thing you could do is get rid of all that property you own.

phil

i'm not saying you're maoists. it's just that i've been reading 'mao: the unknown story' and thought the public self-denunciations that are common therein were appropriate in this case.

I now denounce myself for choosing a form of self-denunciation that masked the sincerity of my denunciation.

LJ

It is my solemn vow to hold the land and the income it produces in trust for the people as long as I shall live. Upon my death I shall dispense a portion to the people. The remaining portion will be held in trust for the people by my heirs.

dave, not that tediousness is against the rules, here, but you're being tedious. You might want to consider that you're wasting everyone's time, including your own.

Which is fine, but me? I've got more constructive and pleasant things to do, like go get that long-overdue root canal.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Whatnot


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